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Ahlers gives Pirates new wrinkle

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East Carolina's Holton Ahlers runs during the game against North Carolina on Sept. 8, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, September 8, 2018

There is no quarterback controversy at East Carolina, at least not yet.

In fact, the biggest smile ECU starting passer Reid Herring offered following his team’s 41-19 shelling of North Carolina on Saturday was when the team’s previous third-string QB, true freshman Holton Ahlers, was mentioned.

The D.H. Conley High School product and former No. 1 QB recruit in North Carolina gave ECU (1-1) the added running edge it needed in a few critical sequences. Most notably, Ahlers scored a pair of touchdowns, including a 21-yard rush to the end zone at the start of the fourth quarter that gave ECU some much-needed breathing room against the Tar Heels (0-2).

Because of new NCAA rules this season, it could be only the beginning for Ahlers, who can still play in three more games this season and preserve his redshirt status.

“We’ll let you know here shortly,” ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery said of how much Ahlers’ seemingly expanding role will keep growing. “I thought he did a great job. We really worked with him this week. I woke up on Tuesday morning just fired up about the end responsibilities of our run game because of a few things that showed up that we didn’t necessarily think were going to show up.”

Ahlers logged eight carries for 36 yards, including TD runs of 1 and 21 yards. Montgomery said the game plan for Ahlers versus UNC arose at least in part because of the need to take some of the pressure off the interior of the Pirates’ front line on offense.

“Holton really gave us a boost,” Montgomery said of his freshman, who is not yet permitted to participate in media interviews. “His package is much larger than people think. He can throw it really well.”

Prior to the start of the season, redshirt freshman Kingsley Ifedi surpassed Ahlers on the depth chart and made a brief appearance in the team’s loss to North Carolina A&T last week. But given the chance against the Tar Heels, Ahlers pounced despite being listed third-string on the depth chart.

“He definitely brought a different dynamic,” Herring said of Ahlers, who is not yet available for media interviews because he is a freshman. “We had a certain package for him, and he executed very well and scored two times. It was exciting to see him get in there and score, and I know he loved it. It’s a great feeling winning with our guys.”

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com, 252-329-9595 and follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter.

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